Queen’s City short story

Aleks was smiling, a rare thing for him these days. Jackson even seemed to be in a good mood, which was even rarer. They had just found a great haul of supplies- a moonshine still which would catch a lot more water than the buckets during the rain, six bottles of motor oil, and what Jackson called “The Mother Lode” of Spam. Aleks didn’t know how he could stand eating so much “Stuff Posing As Meat,” as his Grandfather would call it, but as long as the grumpy veteran didn’t throw his cans around the hotel, he was fine.
Then the engine sputtered and stopped. The car slowed in a surreal, horrific fashion. “What the hell?” Aleks asked, trying the ignition. It was no good.
“Doesn’t say much for your mechanical prowess,” Jackson replied, already reverting to his cynical nature.
“You can talk or you can help,” Aleks shot back, giving him am angry look as he got out of the car. He was already upset by the car behaving this way, he didn’t need a smart mouth on top of it. He lifted the hood as white smoke rose from the center block. He already knew what the problem was as soon as he saw the source. “The timing belt’s burnt out.” He looked around. The savage streets were no place to be stranded.
“How much are we gonna carry?”
“What?” Aleks asked, puzzled by the very nature of the question. Jackson got out of the car and it felt like beneath his gas mask he was already at the end of his paitience. “Car’s stuck, kid. So how much are we gonna carry?”
“I’m not leaving Valkeree here! She’ll be stripped for parts by morning tomorrow!”
“Yeah, well, that’s the breaks, isn’t it?”
Aleks stared at him incredulously. He had built this car from the frame to the black primer finish. He wasn’t about to abandon it when a simple fix would do. “Why do you give up so easy?”
“Oh, of course, we can just push it to the nearest service station and say ‘Pardon me sir, aw shucks I just wrecked a belt, could ya fix ‘er up today?’ It’s time to come to grips with reality.”
Aleks was fuming, but he had a point. He then brightened up. “There was a garage, ten minutes ahead of us. I made a note to check it on the way back.”
“That’s ten minutes driving time. By the time we make it there and back, it’ll be dark. I’m calling it.”
“And what time do you think we’ll make it back to the hotel on foot, genius?” Being sarcastic with Jackson always sent him over the edge, but at this rate Aleks didn’t care.
“You have yourself a good time playing around with your hot wheels!” he shouted, and turned around, starting to walk off.
Aleks sighed. “Jackson, wait.” He hated reasoning with the jerk, but without him he’d be completely alone. “I’m sorry. Look, our best option is to get the belt and drive back. You don’t wanna leave all this behind, do you?”
He turned around to face the aryan boy ten years his junior. “What makes you think it hasn’t already been picked over?”
The reality hit him square in the jaw. Their current haul was lucky. The stores they’d hit were fairly secluded, but that garage was in plain sight on the main drag. Looking at the ground, defeated, he acknowledged “I really don’t have a better idea.” His idealism failed him once again. He felt so naive. Why couldn’t he just-
“Come on! None of that mopey crap!”
Aleks looked up at him, a pleading look in his eyes. He was more desperate for leadership than support. “Maybe… we sleep in the car?” As soon as he said it, he felt like Jackson was looking at him like he was the biggest moron he’d ever seen. “I’ll take first watch,” he offered, hoping to soften the blow.
“You’re really not gonna give up on this, are ya?” It was like Jackson felt a nagging sense of responsibility.
“An hour after daybreak, I’ll go check the garage for what we need. We’ll push her under that canopy,” he said, pointing at what used to be a drive-up ATM.
Jackson looked at it, then looked at him, and said “If we die tonight, I’m gonna give you hell for it for all eternity.”
Aleks smiled as he opened the door and gripped the steering wheel, getting ready to guide it as he pushed. “You don’t descend from Scandanavia. I’m going to Valhalla, you’ll probably end up in regular old Heaven.”
“Shut up, brat,” was all he said, putting his hands on the back bumper and digging his heels into the pavement. They would make it another night.


November 11, 2018

Skip one week and I’m almost out of touch with how to do this. Well, this week I mostly concentrated on my perception, and I think I’m finally relaxing and appreciating all the good things happening simply as they are, rather than continuously striving for better. The only thing I don’t have is independence, but the low cost of living in my situation has opened many avenues. Once I saw how much I’ve paid on my car, I felt great and that I needed to just enjoy having this opportunity.

At work, we’re going well over what used to be the usual daily mark, and I feel fantastic about it. I have no doubt that we’ll be ready to make the new quota when the merger is complete. I’m still very hungry to make team lead, but for the time being I can simply take pride in our collective accomplishment.

Friday, I went to see Bob Dylan, and it was an incredible concert. He played a mostly blues-based set, and while he didn’t get on guitar, he did play piano and his harmonica. The evening was admittedly a little hampered by some drunk lady who kept coming on to me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I also had a great time at karaoke well into the night after the show let out.

Today in Bible Study we were going over some early chapters of the book of Peter. I’ll definitely have to read it for myself, but we had wonderful applications of the reading in our own lives of how struggle for good is rewarded, and that trials always pass. In worship today, we focused once more on the importance of giving, and thanking service personnel for Veteran’s day. Finally, a young woman joined the church who I had thought was already well part of us, and I told her “Welcome to the family that you’re already part of.” I told her that her part of her story focused on forgiveness had stuck with me for the many months since I heard it, and how I encouraged a friend to forgive as well.

Looking forward, I recognize I’ll be just fine if I keep doing things as I am. It may be difficult to deal with a few circumstances, and my desire to be on my own isn’t going anywhere, but the results are now speaking for themselves more loudly than they did previously. I need to be patient in receiving the rewards I’m working for.

October 28, 2018

This week has been much more relaxing than recent ones, and yet a bit more interesting. I started a boxing one-on-one class at my gym, and my personal trainer had said “We can do less cardio, because the boxing will get you there.” At the time, of course, I had taken him at his word, but there’s nothing like experience to confirm what I imagined it would be like. The intensity my teacher approaches with is very interesting to respond to, and definitely pulls me closer to “no excuses.”

The day after that, I had booked a massage therapist on my trainer’s recommendation, and it was a rather surreal experience. Between the low lights, the calm music, and so many tensions both in my body and mind eased away, it felt as if I was in a dreamlike state. I had to “come back to reality” at the end of the hour. I look forward to the next session on Wednesday.

At work, I found out my Team Lead had quit, and naturally inquired about advancing to the position myself. Apparently he did so as the company is going into a merger, so they’ll be holding interviews for the position soon. I’ve taken the opportunity to pray that I get it, if it be God’s will. I know I interview well for a new position, but I’ve never had to interview to advance. I’ll be sure to look up how to interview for a higher position, but at the same time I know I have to manage my expectations. After all, the higher I place my hope, the farther it has to fall. I was already disappointed when I didn’t get it the first time, but considering my attitude and thinking at the time, I can say I may have not been ready for it.

Rather than bible study and church today, our class held a tailgate party as a way to reach out to our community. I believe I saw some new faces, and I got to know Jake and his wife much more today. She immediately recognized Kaleo when I played it for Jake, and they recommended an Italian Pianist that I’ll have to listen to and follow up with them on. Corey and his wife brought the newest addition to their family, a sweet blue-eyed girl. At the end of the day, Nicole and Todd gave me a ride home and we talked about the Men’s retreat which will be coming in February. I didn’t go at the beginning of the year because I had just barely landed in Charlotte and started work, so I knew it wasn’t time to start asking off.

Looking into next week, I know I have some goals better defined. I’m already striving for greatness, and there’s the potential for it to pay off. Remaining cool, calm, and collected will be essential. I must also recognize the opportunity for growth. I’m hopeful and prepared for what comes next.

October 21, 2018

Compared to last week, this one has been nearly blissful. I felt very productive all week long. At my main job, we’re producing over the normal amount that I’ve been used to, and I got some equipment for an upcoming project. To quote The Simpsons, “Everything’s coming up Millhouse!”

The gym is paying off as well. I’ve lost eight pounds, and people are starting to notice. I thought I was a little less round when I saw myself in the mirror, and apparently I was correct. On top of that, I’ll be able to start a boxing class soon, so I’m tremendously excited. I was told it would take about three months to see the full transformation, but this is definitely fuel to see the new and improved me by January.

I was late for bible study today, but it was a brilliant concentration on effective communication, which has been something the YouTube videos I’ve been listening to lately have gone over. The biggest takeaway from it as a whole is that one must be actively listening, rather than just waiting for one’s turn to speak.

Today’s sermon was by and for the children, and Sherry made an interesting point how over the decades each generation loses something in societal and world advancement. At first, it seemed cynical, but I couldn’t deny the truth within it. Each of us got a card marking times we could volunteer, and I’m not sure if I could make any commitment of time but I’ll keep an open mind.

After service, I took the opportunity to help set up for the concert playing tonight. I was so glad I took the opportunity, because I met the gentleman who was baptized last week and told him how his story moved me. I really enjoyed working along my Christian brothers.

Looking forward to next week, I feel renewed. Things are definitely less of the same tired routine, and more about personal advancement. I just need to take continuous care to stay focused on the path.

October 14, 2018

This has been an terribly stressful week. We’ve had to keep my Brother’s two dogs, who are not well leash-trained, not well house-trained, and they bark at every sight and sound. Add to that the fact that my Mother just seems to raise her voice at every opportunity and I am completely out of patience. I crave to be living independently of her, but until my car is paid off, it would be unwise to jump into the responsibility for more expenses. Even so, the way she ignores my wishes, I’m not sure the tradeoff is worth it.

I’m really enjoying the visits with my personal trainer, and it does serve as an outlet to alleviate the stress, but I only go to the gym twice a week. I may be able to add Saturday classes soon, and I’m very hopeful to, assuming I can afford it. The investment I’m making in myself is well worth it and important to me. He and I went over my food log, and apparently I’m doing very well. I just need to cut juice and tea, so to that end I bought a juicer. I’m still trying to understand how to disassemble it without breaking it before first use, but I’m sure it’ll help. Particularly if I buy the books that guide nutrition.

Work has been going as well as ever, although I was slogging on Monday despite my best efforts. Even so, I’m taking more interest than I had after vacation. I just wish this hotel were as interesting as the previous one. Even so, the savings in fuel and time getting home are probably better than a few funny stories every week.

In bible study, we went over a myriad of ways that our small groups could begin. I’m excited to see what fruits it will bear, but altogether I wonder if I should change to first shift and take a hit in hours at my second job to open my time for more socialization. That, of course, would be in conflict with my professional goal of possibly advancing to team lead. I should pray for resolution.

In worship, we had three baptisms, and also took communion. Our baptisms were two youths and a gentleman who is my senior, and his story was deeply touching. I think what reached me the most today was when we sang Because He Lives, as the chorus helped me to regain my confidence under these burdens. It is “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because he lives.”

The dogs will be going home tomorrow, so I’ll be breathing a sigh of relief. I think I’ve found a bible study on the app to begin that I can invite Dan and possibly Madison to. Also, the church is hosting a tailgate party as part of community outreach, so I’ll be inviting my trainer and the owner of the gym. As awful as this week has been, I look forward to what the next holds

October 7, 2018

It’s certainly been difficult this week going back to work after being in paradise. I think my enthusiasm is slowly starting to return, but post-vacation funk definitely had a grip on me. Pair that with the disappointing news that my main job isn’t adding a third shift, and therefore I won’t be going team lead on it, and it’s hard not to wonder if there are greener pastures elsewhere. However, my current team lead is looking into bigger and better things, so it may not be that long after all until I can move forward, and move out on my own.

Speaking of, conflict at home came back very quickly. I told my buddies “you wouldn’t think we were just on vacation last week.” I floated the idea of family therapy, and my Mother was receptive to it, so perhaps we can move past our issues. I certainly hope so.

We had our last Circle Up meeting before deciding how to handle our groups going forward, and I’m hopeful to establish a group to meet with regularly. As much as I look forward to seeing the people at Church every week, it would be nice to gather more frequently, and stay engaged in a faith atmosphere.

The only other thing I can think of is that my personal trainer said I hadn’t lost a step during vacation, which was good news. I enjoy the bench press and what I can only think to call the parachute pull the most. It’s an exercise created by Navy SEALS who, during their paratrooping missions, would use their parachute belts to pull themselves at an angle, among other exercises.

Looking forward to next week, I can only consider how aggressive I should be in pursuing team lead.  It’s a job that matches my capabilities, but I need more money if I’m going to make it on my own. I’m hungry for it, and I know I have to be patient at the same time. It’s never easy to reconcile those two feelings at such odds,  but I’ve done it before and can again.

September 30, 2018

This week has been spectacular. As I signed out Monday morning, I knew I would be getting up when I wanted to, seeing my trainer in the afternoon, and not going anywhere near work for seven days. I loved every part of my trip to Savannah, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

The night we arrived, we took the dogs to the beach and it was fantastic to hear the tide, smell the salty air, and walk on wet sand again. Not long after there was a venue where a blues band was playing, which was great considering I missed my blues show the week previous due to the hurricane. The day after, we went to the aquarium, and I got to feed a horseshoe crab. I had no idea their mouths were at the center of their legs. We also walked the nearby nature trail and saw an incredible 300-year old Oak tree. We also visited the beach again that evening, and this time I just had so much fun letting myself get pushed by the waves.  After that was my birthday, and we packed in both a visit to the American Prohibition Museum and the play The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a spectacular day of history seen through two lenses.

The next day, we finally got to the beach during the daytime, and I played in the water for awhile before getting stung by a jellyfish. After a quick visit to the grocery store to pick up some vinegar, I felt fine and reflected that it was all part of a well-rounded experience. We then went for a Dolphin Tour, which had some interesting information, and caught another music act before settling in for the last night there and a long drive home.

Reflecting on my journey in faith, I completed the Bible Study plan Dan invited me to, and I’m looking forward to inviting him to one soon. In Bible Study, only Kevin and I were able to attend for Circle Up, so I’ll have to remember my other group members in prayer. I was also late in arriving, but it must’ve been the will of my Father because a young gentleman asked me if I knew where the youth were meeting. I was able to figure it out and delivered him to the Youth Minister, and said it was very interesting to be called upon as a shepherd.

In worship, we were joined by another church, which was a great opportunity to have a new perspective as Dr. McGowan gave his message. At some points it was challenging, because it reintroduced something that I interpreted as possibly transnational win-lose thinking, which was one of the things I had to correct. Perhaps it does have its place and applying positive win- win thinking all the time could lead to disappointment if not measured against reality. I’ll have to analyze future events through those lenses. In either case, it goes hand-in-hand with last week’s message that we must not only not lose focus, but also continue to invite others to follow Christ in their lives. I may have become a bit shy about discussing faith in my everyday life over the past months, but with it brought more into focus I know I can correct it.

In conclusion, I’ll be returning to work tomorrow and I’m making a concentrated effort to enjoy that notion. I do look forward to asking about the potential to team lead a third shift next year, and I’ll enjoy discussing my trip with my own team lead. All in all, it was a greatly rejuvenating experience, and so must be the return to the day’s labor for a day’s wages.

September 23, 2018

I suppose I have two weeks to catch up on. Thankfully, two weeks ago was mostly unremarkable. There was a lot of conflict at home, and I was beginning to wonder how sustainable it would be to stay here long term. However, due to the hurricane, the hotel allowed me to stay free of charge for a few nights. It helped to melt away all the tension and pressure I had been surrounded by. Now I’ve come to understand that I need to maintain my frame, be my own mental point of origin, and I’ll be better off.

This week, I started with a personal trainer, and it’s really helped me to hone both my physical approach as well as the mental. I did have a guy at work upset with me that I changed tasks, for whatever reason, to the point that he was using inappropriate workplace language. Of course, I maintained my cool and let him fuss himself out the door. I and other team members couldn’t believe what we were seeing, as this was coming from a man who’s been with the company almost 20 years, but I simply decided to pray for him and I’ll let the boss handle it on Monday. I won’t be there myself, as I’ll be going on vacation. The other thing I should mention about this week is due to the hurricane’s flooding, the concert I had been looking forward to was cancelled. I thought I would ride an amazing high into having a week off, but nature had other plans.

For my journey in faith this week, I learned more about the people in my Circle Up group, and submitted my name to volunteer for Deacon. I pray that I’m chosen, but The Father’s will be served before my own wishes. People open up to me about problems and I seem to give good advice, and lending my support has always felt in line with the mission. Also, Dan Chang has started a bible study in the Bible app, and it feels like a rather cerebral approach to understanding and contextualizing the approach to modern faith. Unfortunately, I don’t have any reflections from the sermon this week, as the majority of my effort was spent trying to stay awake. I’ll have to include it with next week’s journal.

I feel spectacular being able to lift myself up and changing what I concentrate on. I have a new handle on how to approach things. I need to stay engaged with the community that helped me gather this outlook on life.

September 8, 2018

This week started off about as bad as it could. I got into a fight with my Mother on Monday, which I initially dealt with by spending as much time as I could out of the house. Tuesday I woke up from a dream about a potential romantic interest, and that evening took it to prayer. Wednesday, I realized I took the easy problem to God but was being selfish about the other one, so I knew I had to pray about it, too. We resolved things and set some new ground rules Wednesday night.

In Bible Study, we continued our Circle Up group, and were joined by two members who didn’t make it last week. We analyzed our overall engagement with the Christian mission through lenses like Personal Ministry, and each of us found something we were lacking in. It also appears where one was lacking, the other was strong. It’s a very natural fit to come together that way.

Our worship was focused on the values of Mercy and Forgiveness, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As I’ve been unpacking my things, it’s hard not to think about Brian and how he threw me out. I believe I’ve learned that in some cases, forgiveness must be maintained, and that it isn’t as simple as saying the words and putting the wrongdoing out of my mind.

I noticed last week I didn’t have anything to say about my occupation, and it felt kind of short. In consideration of that, I can definitely say I’m grateful not only to have two great jobs, but to work where I’m granted time off when I need it.I’m very much looking forward to the next three weeks, as Starting point will have another follow-up, this time recruiting new students. I’ll be there with Nicholas to tell about how things changed for me over the course of the class. The following week, I’ll be seeing Kaleo, an Icelandic Blues band, in concert. And the last week of September, I’ll be on vacation for my birthday.

In closing, I’m gradually recognizing the attitude I should take towards how I spend my time. I need to involve myself more in enrichment activities, hopefully with the church. I’ll also be looking into a gym membership this week. I’m well aware of the knock-on effect it could have for my spiritual growth. I also think I”ve gotten better about daily prayer. After all, mastery has no end point.

September 2, 2018

It’s been another week of steady sailing. I added another bill to automatic draft, unpacked more things, and best of all got my collectibles shelf set up. My room is gradually taking shape, and I’m remembering not to stress over how long it takes to get done.

We started a new course in my bible study, Circle Up. It was organized by Andy Stanley and his team, and I couldn’t be more excited. Starting point, the class I first took designed by him, was nothing less than transformative. I had initially hoped my group would be with Dan and Sarah, but I understand after Kevin and Missy shared what’s going on in their lives that I need to be with them to apply the power of prayer. They seem blessed to have each other, and I hope to provide strength and insight.

Kristen led our worship today, and again we focused on the Sermon on the Mount. I thought it was spectacular that she told two stories that I initially heard at Starting Point. One of the young boy in the book “Heaven is for Real” and the other was a personal story of how even though our Sin has been forgiven, that does not mean we will be free of consequences. It definitely served to reconnect me with the moments in that classroom.

Kevin and Missy’s story cemented in my mind the need to be the presence of Christ to strangers, difficult as that may be. But I love to aspire to a challenge, and look forward to pressing myself into this one throughout my life.